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Crystal Lake sixth-grader state finalist for National Geographic Bee

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 3:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2014 12:04 a.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Lukas Bettich's collection of maps could just help him win a $50,000 scholarship.

Bettich, a sixth-grader at Richard Bernotas Middle School, is one of only 100 fourth- through eight-graders throughout the state selected by the National Geographic Society for the final round of the 2014 Illinois State Geographic Bee.

Should Bettich win the state final April 4 at College of DuPage, he would be $100 richer and receive a trip to Washington for the National Geographic Bee final where a $50,000 scholarship awaits the winner.

Bettich has already exceeded expectations, beating out students two grade levels above him to win the school competition. After winning the school competition he still had to submit a written qualifying test to the National Geographic Society, which then selected the top-100 scores of all the school winners in each state.

"To be honest, it was a hard test and I didn't think I would make it," Bettich said. "It helped me think I can do very well [at state]."

While Marcia Bettich was not certain he could make the top-100, she knew her son's love of geography and maps gave him an edge.

Marcia Bettich said Lukas began collecting maps a few years ago and would study and memorize not only locations but the cultures in each area. She said his studying and curiosity with travel has always been an outlet to deal with a physical disability he had since birth.

"He has a huge, huge love of maps," Marcia Bettich said. "When he won the school competition, we were thrilled. I don't think I really knew how good he was at it."

His passion has led him to early aspirations of getting involved in architecture or urban planning. He already serves as a navigator on the many trips his family takes, Marcia Bettich said.

2014 marks the 26th edition of the National Geographic Bee, which aims to educate children about the planet and foster interest in scientific research and conservation.

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